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NONFICTION : FORD: THE MEN AND THE MACHINE by Robert Lacey (Little, Brown; $24.95; illustrated).

August 03, 1986|Ed Cray

Contrary to the admonition, you can sometimes tell a book by its (dust) cover. In this case, the publishers have adorned an uneven history of Ford Motor Co. and the willful dynasty that owns much of it with a color photograph of the glitzy 1939 Lincoln Zephyr. Not a workaday Model-T, the Ford automobile that wrought industrial, transportation and social revolutions, but a rich man's plaything, one that sold too few thousand copies to be anything more than an automobile collector's dream.

So with British author Robert Lacey's gossipy biography. This is a society column, not a social history, and it is too often irrelevant when it might have been valuable. Lacey can omit no anecdote about the Ford family, no matter how unimportant. That a daughter of Henry II was in analysis and enjoyed what was once called a "shotgun" marriage has nothing to do with the competitive position of Ford Motor Co. vis-a-vis rival General Motors or the pesky Japanese. Much of Lacey's attempt to explain Ford the company and Ford the managers is buried by such spicy, faintly hostile drivel and horseback pseudo-psychoanalysis.

One can understand why first serial rights to this book went to People, not Fortune.

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