Rick Walling of Ultimate Auto Detail in Salem (Courtesy photo)

For Rick Walling, his career developed as a high school crush. 

He spent half the day in class and the other half detailing and working on cars.

After 30 years in the business, Gervais native Walling is headed to Seattle as part of a team of handpicked detailers from across the country to give an old Air Force One a polish.

High-end detailer and International Detailer Association trainer Renny Doyle will be leading the team he selected from detailers he trains all over the country. 

“He chooses people he thinks are the very best,” said representative for Doyle’s company, Kimberly Ballard. “There’s been some people who have been doing it for eight or nine years and when he chooses the new guys he goes on who really seems to have the touch. Polishing cars is really a skill, it’s not a soapy bucket and sponge.”

It’s a skill the members of the team learn, in part, from Doyle who offers his own detailing certifications through his company Detailing Success–a program Walling and many others on the team have completed.

“I have chosen Rick for the (Air Force One) Team because he brings skill, experience, and a commitment to the art of detailing to the project,” said Doyle in a statement. “These are priceless vintage aircraft and there is no room for mistakes. I trust Rick’s eye for perfection, and I look forward to having him on the team this year.”

The team will address the needs of the plane that’s been sitting in Seattle’s Museum of Flight in a hangar that’s exposed to the Washington weather. 

The restoration process started in 2003 for the “flying Oval Office” as the Boeing 707-120 is also known. According to provided information from the expedition’s communication team, the plane once served presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy before landing at the museum. 

Doyle was selected to begin the restoration process after he founded Detailing Success–a program that trains detailers from around the country, relying on Doyle’s 30-plus years in the industry. 

“In the early days of restoring Air Force One, we had a very small but elite team of detailers that only came every couple of years to clean it,” Doyle said in a statement. “The plane was still out on the tarmac and in that two-year period, it was almost like having to start all over every year.”

The plane is now kept in the open-air pavilion at the museum which means while it’s somewhat housed, it’s still exposed to the elements, making a yearly bath necessary. 

“It’s exactly what you think,” Walling said. “We’re up there polishing this plane,” he said of the team that will consist of a scaled down 20 members due to Covid regulations. 

“I love detailing because you see results really quickly,” Walling said of his decades-old love affair with the industry. “We might start a project first thing in the morning and by the next day you’ve transformed this car or project into something that looks amazing. You make a difference.”

Walling has been making a difference in Salem since 1992 when he moved from Gervais after graduation and opened his own shop, Ultimate Auto Detail. Together with his wife Shelley, Walling has built the business over the decades, finding the payoff in his selection for Doyle’s team. 

“It’s an honor,” he said of his selection–an honor he thought had passed him by.

It was a recent Friday at the end of business before Walling got the call.

“He waited until 4 p.m. to call,” Walling said of Doyle. “To be honest with you, I welled up.” 

“Being picked for this project, if you go anywhere in the country and run into other detailers, they will give you a pat on the back automatically. It’s really cool to be doing this all these years and to be picked for this. I’m just a guy who’s been working his butt off in Salem, Oregon cleaning cars for people,” he said.

Walling heads to Seattle on Sunday for the six-day project and will also be working on a B-29 bomber located in the museum. 

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at caitlynmmay@gmail.com.

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