GENEVA - The man who designed Rolls-Royce's new Silver Seraph once owned a Messerschmidt bubble car.
Today, Graham Hull is fascinated by industrial archaeology. When he was a student, he wanted to design aircraft. Instead, he ended up designing the ultimate in luxury cars.
Hull, 51, has devoted his working life to Rolls-Royce and Bentley aesthetics. When he joined Rolls-Royce's styling department in 1971, his teacher was John Blatchly - the man responsible for the epitome of Rolls-Royce aesthetics, the 1955 Silver Cloud.
'It had a yacht profile with a high radiator sitting at the front as if it was a Greek temple,' says Hull. 'You could almost call it an anti-wedge shape nowadays, but the double-wave waist line was unique.'
The Silver Cloud was his main inspiration when he was designing the Silver Seraph, he says. But Hull had to consider a wide range of issues, including the values of the Rolls-Royce marque itself.
He concluded that too many assumptions had been made, and that it was necessary 'to re-address the issue of the Rolls-Royce renaissance. We needed a new body language to enhance our traditional physical presence, yet in a contemporary style.'
Hull does not talk about New Edge and aerodynamic values.
Instead, he talks about how 'jewelry' features in the overall design of the Seraph, and the 'greenhouse mystery' of the Rolls' passenger compartment.
Any passenger sitting in the back of a Rolls should feel relaxed, and protected from the chaos of everyday life. 'It is all about serenity,' says Hull.
'The radiator is still our Greek temple,' he says, 'but walking around the car your attention is drawn by the headlamps, indicators, rear-view mirrors, hub caps, stainless steel window frames and tail- lights.'
Hull deliberately included the possibility of a two-tone paint scheme in his design. He believes this makes the Seraph a more elegant car than its predecessor, which emphasized its size and width. 'I hope two-tone paint will come back on luxury cars,' he says.
Why is the double-wave of the Silver Cloud not a feature on the Seraph?
'Some people said that we should have made a new Cloud,' says Hull. 'That could have been very interesting, but only for a niche within our market, and at the risk of being shackled to that feature forever.'
The Cloud's 'yacht' elements can still be detected in the falling feature line and in the sloping tail. But the radiator sits much lower than before, providing the base for a slight wedge shape for the hood and greenhouse.
'The rear features the most retro part of the design,' says Hull, 'although I do not like that expression.'
What he does like are 'extremes - whether they are large and luxurious or small and simple,' referring to the Messerschmidt bubble car he once owned.
Hull hopes that he won't have to wait another 18 years to design a new Rolls-Royce.
'Whatever happens,' he says, 'the impressive beauty of a yacht, the classic shape of a Greek temple and the grace of the 'Flying Lady,' will never be out of date.'