Seabiscuit: An American Legend is based on the true story of a racehorse and his owner, Buick distributor Charles Howard. The horse overcame tremendous odds to become an unlikely champion in the 1930s and 1940s.
During the same period, Robert A. Smith Sr. was starting a family dealership legacy. Smith Sr. is often likened by his sons to the risk-taking, charismatic Howard.
"My grandfather was just like Charlie Howard: He was a distributor, selling and servicing Chevrolets at a dozen dealerships in San Francisco," says Tim Smith, 56, owner of Bob Smith BMW of Canoga Park, Calif., and 2003 chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
"The depression wiped him out. My father, grandfather and grandmother packed everything up and moved to Southern California in their Rolls convertible."
Smith Sr. beat the odds when he and a partner formed and successfully operated two Dodge-Plymouth dealerships in Glendale and Burbank.
When Smith Sr. died, his son, Bob Smith Jr., was his natural successor.
"Dad was a visionary," says Tim Smith. "When Chrysler took Plymouth away from the Dodge dealers, he bought a Volkswagen-Porsche store along with starting an independent leasing company, Sierra Leasing Co."
Smith Jr. had a succession plan for his three sons: Pete, Mike and Tim. The father acquired his third dealership in 1973, Bob Smith BMW, in the San Fernando Valley.
"He was wise to get a third dealership, leaving one for each of his sons," says Tim Smith, who runs the BMW dealership that he built from the ground up.