Optima Batteries, a short history... - JeepForum.com
  • 6 Post By Kruzin
  • 1 Post By Kruzin
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 7 Old 04-22-2020, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
Web Wheeler
Kruzin's Avatar
2009 JK Wrangler 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Lakewood
Posts: 6,416
Cool Optima Batteries, a short history...

Some of you have heard my story about Optima dry cell batteries before, but now I have some cool vintage pics to go with the story. My dad was the lead engineer on the machine that rolls the individual cells, dubbed the "beer can paster-winder" because of the size of the cells. Unfortunately, dad passed away a couple weeks ago on April 3rd. In going through the old family photos, I discovered a whole roll of pics of this machine and it's various stations/components. I'll attach just a few at the end of this posting...

So, we all know that Optima batteries are loved by many, but have fallen from favor more and more over the years. Those who were around long ago remember before they were called Optima, they were Gates Energy, a subsidiary of Gates Rubber, the belt/hose company. That's when pops was involved.

When they first started development on the battery, there were issues making the individual cells reliably in large batches. The contacts wouldn't line up and the oxidized paper would walk out of alignment. Cue dad. Charlie Gates personally brought him in to engineer a machine that could make these cells fast and reliably. Thus was born the beer can paster-winder. He spent years designing, building and maintaining these machines.

Initially, production was in the Denver Gates plant (where we live), Missouri and one in London. Dad would travel between the 3 locations for training and maintenance and the product they turned out was truly high quality. This was where these batteries earned their reputation. They were powerful and long lasting. I had one of the first couple hundred made and used it in 3 different cars over 10 years before it gave up.

But then Gates sold the entire energy division to a company who moved production to Mexico and renamed the company Optima. That's when dad took his retirement from Gates and moved on.

The quality of the product has unfortunately fallen more with each passing year and there are more modern, better AGM style batteries these days. But for a few decades at least, the Gates battery was the best in the world and my old man made it that way

Here's the pics...in the first one, dad's second from the left.
I only saw the machine in operation a couple times as a teenager back in the 80s, but it was impressive to watch. The paper would be fed into the rolling section in the middle at incredible speeds from 8 different rolls and pop out a completed cell in just a couple seconds.
There's also a pic of unfilled cell cases, one with a more clear shot of the paster-winder and one of dad showing some co-workers how it operated. for some reason, among 50+ pics, there isn't a single one of a completed cell...

Attached Thumbnails
_20200422_104149.jpg   _20200422_104337.jpg   _20200422_104732.jpg   _20200422_111604.jpg  

'09 JK Rubicon
'01 XJ Sport
'10 Fusion
Kruzin is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 7 Old 04-23-2020, 01:16 PM
Registered User
Nucking1Futs's Avatar
1984 CJ7 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Sacramento area
Posts: 181
Thank you for sharing about your father and his accomplishment. My condolences to you and your family.

I to share April 3rd with you, as I lost my dad on April 3, 2019.

Best to you as you grieve.


4.2L w/Howell TBI, T5, D300, Dana 30 w/locker/AMC 20 posit, 3.31 gears
Nucking1Futs is offline  
post #3 of 7 Old 04-26-2020, 11:10 AM
Registered User
2003 TJ Wrangler 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 128
Very nice post, thanks for sharing. My regards about your dad. Never easy to lose a parent, no matter your age. Take care.

/l ,[____],
l---L -OlllllllO-
()_)-()_)-o-)_) 03 auto, Ford 8.8, 4.88, Tru-tracs
DougRz is offline  
post #4 of 7 Old 05-20-2020, 02:15 PM
This is Ames Mister...
ChiliPalmer's Avatar
2000 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Kuna
Posts: 3,374
My condolences and that is an amazing story.

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

If you want to help the sport of offroading visit the
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

Originally Posted by Sparrows View Post
Oh man Chili. I feel like a recovering addict that just had a bag of blow, a bottle of Jameson, and a sack dropped in his lap. You screwed me man!
ChiliPalmer is offline  
post #5 of 7 Old 06-01-2020, 07:21 PM
Web Wheeler
kadetklapp's Avatar
1997 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Indiana
Posts: 1,604
Very cool. Just bought my first new Optima last month (I’ve had a used one in a truck I bought). I’m excited to see how it does.

**1997 Jeep Cherokee SE**
Former Police Car assigned to 54-26, RIP.
kadetklapp is offline  
post #6 of 7 Old 07-03-2020, 03:45 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 4
Condolences as well. Those batteries were a whole new game back in the day. Cool your pops was a part of it.

I've never had one. Buddy bought one a few years ago for his 69 Camaro. Let it sit for a few months without a trickle charger. I personally selected and purchased one for him to make sure it was compatible. He was worried. Long story short the battery was toast. Brought it back to the store with receipt and had a huge hassle getting it warrantied. I have several classic cars that are not driven for half a year at a time. I'm USUALLY good about getting them on chargers if that's going to be the case. But I've missed my chance at catching them before they are dead more than a few times. I've never had one that couldn't start the car after an overnight trickle. And even if they crap out the next day, at least they take some charge. I buy Walmart batteries BTW. Huuuuge disappointment with that Optima. Hard pass forever on those.

Glad your dad was doing his thing while he and we still could, world of quality in everything seems to have slid off the map since.

Sent from my 9029Z using Tapatalk
AnotherWS6 is offline  
post #7 of 7 Old 07-04-2020, 03:22 PM Thread Starter
Web Wheeler
Kruzin's Avatar
2009 JK Wrangler 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Lakewood
Posts: 6,416
Thanks for all the condolences and kind words. Hard to believe it's already been 3 months since he passed.

I found another work pic of his, from years before he did the batteries.
In the late 60s and early 70s, he was a body engineer for Ford. I remember as a kid how he used point out various car parts he worked on. "See that mirror? That's one of mine" or "I worked on that door handle!". His favorite to point out was the little oval 'opera window' in the sail panel of early 70s LTDs.
Here he is (on the right) at Ford's design and engineering facility in Dearborn, MI. I don't know the exact year, but it looks to be around the time I was a baby in the late 60s.
Attached Thumbnails
DougRz likes this.

'09 JK Rubicon
'01 XJ Sport
'10 Fusion
Kruzin is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the JeepForum.com forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid e-mail address for yourself.

Email Address:


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome