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Battery explosions in '71 911 T

Electrical

Vehicle Information: Model: 911; Year: 1971; Body Type: Targa; Engine (type, size, modifications): 2.2; Total Mileage: 140000;

I am restoring a 71 911T that hasn't run for about 5 years. I just put the batteries in the front. When I went to make the last connection, there was a big spark, lots of smoke, which was followed by me jumping about five feet in the air. The heat from the spark was hot enough to melt part of the battery terminal and scorch the connector. Something is obviously wrong here but I have no idea what it could be and this is the first time that I have dealt with a car that has 2 batteries. I am afraid to try to connect them again unless I have some idea what is causing this to happen due to the close proximity of the gas tank. Is there just some magic trick to hooking these things up or do I just need to start looking for shorts.

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