Benson Ford, 59, a grandson if auto pioneer Henry Ford, a vice president of the Ford Motor Co. and a supporter of charitable and civic organizations, died Thursday following an apparent heart attack.

He was stricken aboard his yacht, which had been docked at the resort community of Cheboygan on Lake Hudson near the northern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. His wife, the former Edith McNaughton, was with him when he suffered the attack.

Mr. Ford was a vice president, member of the board of directors and chairman of the dealer policy board of the Ford Motor Co.

His elder brother, Henry II, is chairman of Ford's board of directors. His younger brother, William Clay Ford, is a member of Ford's executive committee and owner of the Detroit Lions football team.

Compared to his brothers, whose business and personal lives have been widely publicized over the years, Mr. Ford led a relatively quiet and private existence.

But like his brothers, Benson Ford had been associated with the family business since his youth. He spent summer vacations from the Hotchkiss School and the Princeton University as a grease-monkey at the River Rouge plant.

He left Princeton at the end of his sophomore year to begin full-time work at the experimental garage in the engineering lab at Dearborn, where he helped dismantle test engines and build an experimental jeep for the government.

He rejoined the family business after the war and was named a corporate vice president and director of Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division in 1948.

Mr. Ford enlisted as a private in the Army Air Corps during World War II and rose to the rank of captain.

He had announced several years ago that for reasons of health he was not interested in succeeding his brother as company chairman.

The recent corporate shake-up that ended in the dismissal of Ford president Lee A. Iacocca reportedly left his younger brother, William CLay Ford, in a position to succeed Henry II as company chairman.

Mr. Ford's work on behalf of charities included service as national chairman of the United Community Campaigns of America in 1961. He was named honorary chairman of the Detroit United Foundation after serving as its president for two years.

He was trustee of the Citizens Conference on State Legislatures and had served from 1951 to 1955 as co-chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In politics he was a Republican.

He was a trustee of the Ford Foundation, president of the board of Henry Ford Hospital and a trustee of the Edsel B. Ford Institute for Medical Research.

Mr. Ford's professional and trade memberships included the Society of Automotive Engineers. He had been chairman of the Automotive Safety Foundation.

He belonged to the Grosse Pointe, Detroit Athletic and University clubs.

In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1941, of the home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., and his two brothers, survivors include a son, Benson Jr., of Hacienda Heights, Calif.; a daughter, Lynn Alandt, of Grosse Pointe Farms, and a sister, Josephine (Mrs. Walter B. Ford II), of Grosse Pointe.