Re: battery cables hot during crank???
Lots of good suggestions here - especially if the engine has not turned over in 20 years.
Remove the plugs and squirt in oil into the cylinders - rings are dry - needs lube!
PULL throttle to WOT position and leave it there for now.
Manually turn the enine by hand/wrench. Since there is no bolt, low HP engine, use Steiner's suggestion, or, pull off the flywheel inspection plate/cover, mark the flywheel/flexplate, and use a large 3/8 inch flat blade screwdriver to pry on the flywheel teeth one complete revolution minimum.
The cables are getting hot because of the current drawn - locked rotor. The worst test to perform on an electric motor for a length of time. Usually done in 5 second increments when performing locked rotor tests. a suggested, clean both ends of the cables.
Since you mentioned the one cable has a spring clamp, suggests it may be of original cable or dealer replacement from the same time frame. The cable itself is of too small wire gauge, 2 AWG, because of costs. Might replace both cables with 1 AWG.
Now getting back to the engine with WOT and plugs out. You can remove the distributor, chalk mark the rotor and vacuum advance on the engine, and/or take a picture of it for reference later, and use an oil primer to prelube the engine. Turn crankshaft 90° every 30 seconds to lube all rockers. The replace the dist to the referenced marks/picture taken. Replace plugs, close the throttle - ensure the return spring is hooked up, crank up the curb idle screw, use clean fesh gasoline, new filter, I'm sure you've checked the tank and have ran clean gas through the fuel lines up to the fuel pump and filled the bowls.....and have a fresh fully charged battery.
Timing light handy, fire extinguisher, tongue in left cheek and fingers crossed.........let it run for about 20-30 minutes just as if breaking in a new camshaft - lube the lifters.
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