There are two battery-related challenges to owning an old muscle car.

One, they can be hard to start - especially if the engine is a big V-8 with high compression (which makes it tougher to crank, which places high demand on the battery).

Two, they often sit for weeks (or more), which can be harder on a battery than daily use because it's not being constantly recharged by the car's charging system - which only works when the engine's running.

A solution to both problems could be a high-performance battery like one of the new Optima spiral cell batteries (see: http://www.optimabatteries.com/optima_products/).

These batteries are physically and functionally different from conventional batteries. Each battery contains six spiral cells (instead of plates in line) that wind around a central core; instead of the electrolyte sloshing around between the plates as in a conventional battery, it is held in suspension on absorbent mats that act like a sponge. The design allows more total plate surface area, which results in superior performance in a compact design that is also leak-free and corrosion-free, because there is no flowing electrolyte.

When you hit the ignition key, Optima claims you'll get the "strongest 5 second burst" of power available, which should make starting even the hairiest big block a snap.

I got one (RedTop with 1,000 cold cranking amps) recently for my 455-powered Trans-Am and am a believer. Where the old battery - a conventional plates-in-a-row type - often noticeably strained as it tried to rotate the big V-8 despite having the same exact same CC amps rating, the Optima spins the 455 over as easily as the PR materials claimed, with a near instantaneous start.

Superior hot-start performance - a big issue for muscle car owners - is another plus.

The design is also better able to withstand vibration (another issue for muscle car owners, especially if your car has a lumpy cam) and the battery is completely spill proof. You can even mount the unit on its side, if you wanted to.

An Optima battery is more expensive up front (about 40 percent more than a similarly rated, plate-type premium battery) but in addition to being able to start your car reliably, every time, the Optima will last longer because the spiral cell design is inherently more durable, doesn't shed lead paste (as happens routinely on the plates-in-series suspended in electrolyte fluid in a conventional battery) and can take being "cycled" (discharged and recharged) without losing their ability to hold a charge better than a standard battery. The increased surface area of the spiral-wound cells, meanwhile, also gives faster recharge times. (More in -depth technical date here: http://www.optimabattery.co.uk/engli.../technical.htm).

The Optima batteries are generally more compact than the units they replace, which helps with installation and mounting. In my case ('70s-era Pontiac) getting the battery in and out is now a lot easier - and the unit came with the same factory-type side terminals as the OE battery, so the stock cables bolt right up.

The RedTops are available for pretty much any classic muscle car and are ideal for modified vehicles and hot rods. If you have a lot of aftermarket electronics, Optima's YellowTop line is what you want. In addition to the superior starting power of the RedTops, the YellowTops are designed for maximum cycling (discharge/recharge) capability.