Our American Dream: Bob Zamora, a miner's son turned car dealership king

Bob Zamora is not a famous man. He hasn’t solved world hunger or held any political office. But at 66 years old, he is a man who has worked harder and achieved more than most, and been very influential in significantly changing the lives of the people who work with him.

Zamora’s life is a quintessential American success story. He went from poor kid to owning 18 car dealerships — soon to be 20.

Born in the small mining town of Superior, Arizona, Zamora’s father worked as a copper miner until he broke his back in a mine cave-in. This required the family to move to La Puente, California, where he spent most of his childhood.

With the family struggling financially, Zamora began working at around age 10 — mowing lawns, and cleaning garages. At 14 he heard he could work the farms alongside the Mexican immigrants, and so he did.

“In summers, I’d pick onions from sun up till sun down. I have a lot of respect for migrant workers,” he told Fox News Latino. “It was back-breaking work. I did it until I was old enough to get a legal job,” he recalled.

Zamora left home at 16. He says he had “challenges” with his father who drank more than he should have and was “a bit abusive.”

In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam era, Zamora was drafted into the Army, but he was able to get an early exit after his father passed away in a fire. The next year, age 21, Zamora had saved up enough money to buy a tavern, but after a few years his wife asked him to consider another line of work. She suggested the dealership idea.

“She told me I was good with people. They liked me. I tried it out. I give her all the credit for my success,” Zamora said.

The young man began his career in the car business in 1973, and by 1981 he bought his first car dealership, Lodi Honda — Zamora Auto Group was launched.

Steadily through the years, Zamora’s business has grown to several dealerships throughout California, Arizona and most recently South Texas – not far from where his grandmother crossed the border as a teenager, during the Pancho Villa days.

“I plotted my goals for the future. I planned everything out. I wanted to be the owner of my own auto dealership in 10 years, and I made it happen in eight. And through the years I kept expanding and owning,” Zamora said, adding that discrimination was a constant factor early on.

“I decided not to allow it to slow me down or hold me back” as opposed to confront it as his father had, he said.

“My father did however teach me that being of Hispanic descent I would need to work 150 percent harder than the Anglos in order to get the same recognition,” he said.

This proved to be valuable advice for the father of three, who says he is made a habit of working late hour, more than expected by his employers.

“I have always lived by the belief that you should do more than what you are paid for, and you will be paid more, and your value will eventually be recognized.”