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 in it was very modern technology, such as power lifts and air conditioning," said Leverton. "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," said Leverton. "The underpinnings of those cars were 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," said Gott. "There was nothing wrong with the motor car, but was it excellent enough?"