Definitely sounds like a hardware issue to me. I haven't seen crashes during OS install on any Mac for some time now. Actually, I've never seen one crash during OS install.
If you try again installing Tiger (btw., you can force the mac to eject the disk at startup by just holding down the mouse button), keep the log window open at all times and look for any errors... I guess there's always _some_ messages in there, but maybe you catch something interesting...?