The Detail Kid: 12-year old Idahoan polishes with the pros

Steven Thompson III The Detail Kid

They call him The Detail Kid. Not because he’s so good at details, but because he’s so good at detailing—defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “to clean the inside and outside of a vehicle very carefully.”

Yes, that would be Steven Thompson III of Boise, Idaho, at 12 the world’s youngest to be certified in the craft. Steven achieved that status by passing a detailed (sorry) detailing test to earn a professional automotive certification from the International Detailing Association. He did that during the Mobile Tech Expo in Orlando, Florida, back in February, when Steven III was just 11.

No big deal for a guy who has been detailing since he was old enough to hold a polishing rag. He literally grew up in the business, in Steven II’s Boise shop, the Detail Doctors, which opened in 2010, two months before III was born.

Steven Thompson III The Detail Kid

Steven II, the kid’s father, has plenty of IDA credentials himself. It sets him and his son apart in a business in which anyone with a bucket and a sponge can call themselves a detailer. “I told Steve if he wanted to be taken seriously, he should join the IDA and get the certification.”

Steven III studied after school, his mother making flash cards to help her son commit the information to memory. He passed with a score of 94 out of 100, missing just six questions. “It was a hard test,” III said. “But I was happy with my score.” Several weeks later, he also became the youngest to earn his Skills Validated certification from the IDA.

The 12-year-old has also been certified as part of the SONAX team, thanks to a connection to Rigo Santana, one of Los Angeles’ detailers to the stars and one of three SONAX master detailers. (SONAX is a German brand of premium car cleaning products.)

Santana’s company, Xtreme Xcellence in Laguna Hills, has been around since 2000, and all of his detailers are certified.

“The little kid is crazy talented,” Santana told Hagerty. “I train adults who aren’t as good as he is. And it’s so great to see a young man out actually doing something. So many kids nowadays just live in their laptops.”

Steven III traveled to California to train with Santana, and he got to detail some remarkable vehicles at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum, including Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. Ferrari, Steve McQueen’s Jaguar, Henry Ford’s Ferrari, and a 1936 Auburn owned by Metallica singer James Hetfield. He even helped detail Ronald Reagan’s jet. And a McLaren Senna. And a Singer-modified Porsche.

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This week, the Thompsons are detailing at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

So is this what III wants to do when he’s all grown up? “It definitely is,” he said. “No doubt about it.”

Until then, he’s a kid first, The Detail Kid second, said Steven II. “The rest of the time, he plays baseball or basketball and hangs out with friends. It is very important to us that he remains a kid living a normal life. Despite his accomplishments, he is still the humble, lovable little boy we’ve raised.”




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    I met III and his dad at a show in Boise last month. The Kid was working on a Lambo owned by a friend of mine. I was not only impressed with his work, but with his attitude. He’s just a darned nice boy who has respect and manners, and also happens to have a lot of talent and desire to do well. His dad also impressed me, and I’m throwing a lot of credit his way for how the youngster is turning out.
    It is indeed refreshing and encouraging to see examples like this in the difficult times we live in.

    Hello Dub6 i dont know you by your handle but thank you so much. Steven does love what he does and your kind words are truly humbling.

    thank you 🙂

    I started detailing as a kid. not to the level this kid is at but if you start young you tend to gain a more natural touch.

    He had a good training around him early I wish I had myself. Also todays paints are much more forgiving.

    While I could have done this as a job I am more pleased to keep it a hobby. It is my stress reliever. Some people Drink I polish.

    This kid will go far in a industry that is lacking enough people coming in. At the level he is at he will make a good living and enjoy what he does.

    There a bit of artistic talent here as in having the right touch and know ledge to get the best of a color. Even fixing paint can be as difficult as painting a landscape right.

    I tried to teach my son how to get around a car. He never wanted to take the time. But now as things happen I show him while he is stranded how to deal with a battery or flat in Collage. I think he is starting to understand a basic knowledge will help now. Dads not always going to be 20 min away.

    Great story. Love seeing the enjoyment and skill he has for detailing. You caould say he’ll have a “polished” future.

    Steven has detailed my truck several times and is amazing! No place else I would ever go. So glad he is doing so well and cannot wait to see what his future has in store.

    I have known Steven since he was a little kid. He has always been so into cars and detailing and working with his father alongside there family business. His knowledge of cars and detailing techniques is astonishing for his age. I wish him all the best and how he continues on this amazing path.

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