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Yesterday, I tried to start my '65 Chevelle (283, manual four speed) for the first time in several months. It cranked fine, but did not fire. After three or four seconds of cranking I saw smoke near the battery. The pig tail wire on the negative battery cable was hot and had burned off some of the insulation. What would cause this? My thought was maybe the voltage regulator was the problem.

If it matters, the ignition is a GM stock points distributor, which is only about 1 year old (rebuilt GM unit). The starter motor is only about 1 year old and continued cranking even after the pig tail started smoking.
 

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A loose or dirty connection could cause it. Check and clean at both ends.
 

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You have a negative cable problem. Either it's not tightened on the block, or the cable block end is corroded, or a lot of paint on the block connection. I would replace the negative cable after damaging the pigtail lead.
 
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