The design team, headed by Englishman Ian Cameron, included three exterior stylists - a Briton, an American and a Japanese - and two interior designers, an Englishman and an American.
All the designers came from within BMW, hand-picked by group styling boss Chris Bangle. Bangle had invited BMW's global design staff to apply for jobs at the new Rolls by submitting portfolios of their work.
Cameron, 52, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, brought a unique experience to the job. He had spent six years in Turin, Italy, at Pininfarina, which designs all Ferraris. As a result, he may have become the only stylist in history to have involved himself both with Ferraris and Rolls-Royce.
In 1981, Cameron became chief designer at Iveco-Fiat and since 1992 has worked at BMW. He was project leader for the current generation 3 series, the Z8 sports car and the L30 Range Rover."The (Bayswater Road) studio location gave the designers access to the experience we were trying to capture," Leverton said. "Every 10 minutes a Rolls-Royce would go by. It must have been the densest population of Rolls-Royce cars in world."
To get the hang of Rolls, the design team also threw themselves into the English social season, visiting Ascot and the Henley Regatta, for instance, probing Rolls owners about their cars.
"We drove a lot of cars to understand not only what Rolls was, but what the British coachbuilding tradition was," Leverton said.
While design work was going on in London, Leverton led a team of engineers in Munich. After studying Rolls' history and the great variety of body types created by the old-time coachbuilders that used Rolls-Royce chassis, the project team chose two cars they felt should influence the new one.
One was the 1955 Silver Cloud I.
"It was the last traditional Rolls Royce-looking car, in the tradition of British coachbuilding," Leverton said. The other was the mid-1960s Silver Shadow, the last truly contemporary Rolls Royce, a car with state-of-the-art technology. For instance, the Silver Shadow was the first Rolls with unibody construction and air suspension.
"The Silver Shadow was true to its heritage, but embedded very modern technology, such as power lifts and air conditioning," Leverton said. "We had the vision that our car had to be a state-of-the-art car, so we sought to find the best technology available."
The former owner, Vickers, couldn't afford to do that.
"The Spirit, which debuted in 1980, was basically a facelift and (the 1998 Silver) Seraph was based a lot on the architecture of the Shadow," Leverton said. "The underpinnings of those cars was rooted in the 1960s."
Tony Gott, the current Rolls CEO, came up through the ranks as an engineer at Vickers-controlled Rolls. He said the old firm could not keep up with the automotive times.
"It is impossible these days for small manufacturers to produce cars at the level of the new car," Gott said. "There was nothing wrong with the motorcar, but was it excellent enough?"