Perched over the glistening side engines of the U.S.’s presidential aircraft, Air Force One, is Santa Barbara auto detailer Rob Regan, who spent nearly a week at the Seattle Museum of Flight earlier this month helping bring out the shine of the historical transport. Regan was one of just 32 other high-end vehicle detailers selected by master detailer Renny Doyle, who has organized the project “Detailers of Air Force One” for more than a decade. But even amongst these ranks, Regan stood out from the crowd, as the successful detailing business owner is also a full-time elementary school teacher.
Going by the nickname, “The Auto Detailing Teacher,” Regan spends his weekdays inside a classroom at Monte Vista Elementary School, where he has taught for 20 years. With a family of five, Regan admited his dual-career lifestyle can be tiring, but he said teaching gives him emotional fulfillment while the business side of detailing, and its “physical” engagement, are rewarding and “therapeutic” in a different sense.
Regan’s career decisions sprouted from a lifelong need to keep busy, he said, as he has a short attention span and a high energy level for as long as he can remember. As such, most of his high school days were spent focusing more on athletics than schoolwork. “I was so ADHD at the time — before there was a label — that my organization affected my schoolwork.” Eventually a knee injury during his junior year shifted his focus to school; he graduated from Sonoma State University in 1992, earning a teaching credential from California State University San Marcos (near San Diego) in 1993.
That same year, he began teaching at Monte Vista Elementary. Regan found enjoyment in teaching but was left with summers of leisure he didn’t necessarily need, “I can’t just sit and play golf, and hang out.” Two years later, he turned to auto detailing, ultimately founding his first auto care business, Regan’s Detailing.
Since then, he has attended multiple detailing training schools, and now a regular line of loyal customers and five-star Yelp ratings have catapulted his auto care business to success in just the last year and a half. Regan’s one-on-one interaction with customers and ability to tailor his services to each vehicle sets him apart from competitors. “It’s never a one-size-fits-all,” he said. “Cars are unique like people and they need to be treated that way.”
Regan’s week spent detailing Air Force One—a trip he’s made three times now—may be an even stronger testament to the quality of his work. “There’s not another organization, company, or group in the world that’s been able to touch these aircraft, like we have,” Doyle said. And for Regan, the week of volunteer work gives him a sense of reward that reaches beyond the seams of his wallet. “It’s a pride thing…600,000 people walk on this plane each year and look at it.”
In early September, Regan will travel to Reno, Nevada, to detail the Lockheed Model-10 Electra—the same aircraft piloted by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared in 1937. According to Doyle, Regan’s rising success is not only due to his level of skill, but also to his genuine love for his work. “Rob’s doing it out of passion. There’s nobody in the [Detailers of Air Force One] group that’s got any more passion than he does.”
Still, the blossoming detailer has no plans to leave Monte Vista Elementary School anytime soon. “Some of my friends say, ‘How long are you going to teach for?’, because the auto detailing is really picking up…[but] I can’t see myself not teaching. It would be weird.”
A self-proclaimed “out-of-the-box teacher,” Regan implements classroom practices like lifting medicine balls and listening to classical music—activities he said helps children who may be facing the same struggles he once felt. “You have to do a little bit of everything; you can’t just say, ‘Take out a book and read.’ You get kids like I was, and they can’t sit for 25 minutes and listen to a teacher talk.”
Even with two career paths in full swing, Regan coaches the Monte Vista track team, as well as the soccer and roller hockey teams of his children. His passion for detailing and teaching may run deep, but not setting enough time aside for himself and his loved ones just isn’t an option. “It wouldn’t be fair to me and it wouldn’t be fair to my family.”
It’s difficult to see exactly how Regan does it all, but what is certain is that he isn’t stopping anytime soon. “I’m just wired that way; I’ve come to accept it,” he said with a chuckle.