OK, I figured it out. Well, actually someone else did and Jim out-googled me and found it. That’s an amazing feat as I sometimes consider myself quite the expert on Google queries. But anyway, thanks to Jim for finding it.
As previously noted, during the install for SUSE (9.1/9.2/9.3) the external PCMCIA CD drive was being configured as /dev/hda and thereby forcing the hard drive to be setup as /dev/hdc. However, after the initial reboot, the hard drive is then detected as /dev/hda (the proper setup) but all the boot files and /etc/fstab configurations point to /dev/hdc for the system.
Connect the external PCMCIA CD drive just like normal, insert your SUSE setup disc. I’m using SUSE 9.3 Professional CD install, but it should be the same for any 9.x version of CD or Network installation. Hit the power button and your system should boot from the CD. When you’re prompted with options, go down to “Installation” and then type in the following boot paramater:
Basically, it forces the CD drive to by setup as a different device, in my case it was /dev/hde, which left /dev/hda available for the hard drive.
So, I’m on to installing the rest of the CD’s and then the tweaking begins.