On Feb. 10, 1989, executives from Honda and a newly founded division known as Acura piled into a conference room in Chicago's historic Drake Hotel to rehearse the unveiling of an unbelievable new car—a Technicolor vision for the future, something never before built by Honda or any Japanese automaker.

As the public relations department went over its lines, Tadashi Kume, then-president of Honda and an instrumental figure in Honda's Formula One efforts, presided. The people from Honda America were acutely aware that the Big Boss from Japan, Kume, rarely made a stateside appearance unless it was for something serious. Next door, Ford was in the middle of a full-on press conference. Honda kept its rehearsal respectfully quiet.

While the executives busied themselves with the presentation, Kume sauntered over to the red-and-black prototype on the stage. He climbed in.

Either the keys were already in the car, for one reason or another, or he put them in.

He cranked the ignition.

The engine sparked to life, then it roared as Kume proceeded to rev to redline—right in the middle of the Ford conference. Everyone was shocked. "Mr. Kume, stop it!" yelled Kurt Antonius, Honda's spokesman emeritus, gesticulating wildly. "They're gonna hear this!"

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