Bertie Ahern was driving his boss Charlie Haughey around his Dublin Central constituency in his battered red Ford Escort.
It was just after the February 1982 general election campaign which delivered a hung Dáil, and for the 30-year-old Ahern it was an unpleasant errand as his boss was making offers to benefit a certain local rival, Tony Gregory. The crocked car had also been a mobile election campaign office and was still filled with posters, leaflets and general rubbish. It was not the standard of motor Charlie aspired to.
"God, we'll have to do something about a car for you," Haughey said at one stage, in a clear effort to reassure his young protégé.
And sure enough on March 9, 1982, when Haughey announced his minority government, Ahern made his first entry to the cabinet room as government chief whip.
It was a crazy time and that government - juggling cutbacks and dependence on Gregory and three Workers' Party TDs - only lasted eight months.
But Ahern got a political masterclass in the raw. He found out that as chief whip you get to know all your party colleagues well, along with the others who are supporting your government. These interpersonal links are invaluable on the longer road of politics.
You soon know, at a glance, the state of play of every phase of every piece of pending legislation. You also get to forge personal links with the whips in all of the other parties as you make day-to-day practical arrangements about Dáil business.
It is undoubtedly small consolation to the enraged supporters of the new chief whip, Dara Calleary, who quite justifiably believe he merited a full senior ministry.
But a glance back at the list of previous chief whips reveals some big names from our recent history.
These names also include another man who went on to become Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave. He steered Ireland's first-ever coalition, comprising five parties and six Independent TDs, from February 1948 until June 1951. Many of the TDs he was keeping in line on government votes had never previously been elected to as much as a town council and knew zilch about procedures.
Other household names from our recent political past include Des O'Malley, John Kelly, Seán Barrett, Jim Higgins and Noel Dempsey. Another name which shines out from that list is the late great Séamus Brennan, as he broke new ground in steering Ahern's three-legged stool coalition of Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats and Independents through the full five-year term of 1997-2002.
It would not be a good time to patronise Calleary, who at age 47 is far from a political neophyte but rather a long-serving TD, former junior minister and deputy leader of the Fianna Fáil party. But history teaches us that big things are very likely to be in store for him in his political career. There is, however, a word of caution. It is that he must be good at his new job - but perhaps not too good.
Brennan was so good at keeping Ahern's three-legged stool upright that he was never promoted. When Fianna Fáil won the subsequent 2002 election he had to be very insistent to avoid another stint.