THE FIRST Rolls-Royce developed by new owners BMW has already been ear-marked. The first car out of the new Goodwood plant in 2003 has been 'promised' to an existing customer says Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, director for Project Rolls-Royce within BMW. "He has a large collection, including a Silver Ghost. It's not only in my hands but that is our beginning target," he says.

BMW's new Rolls-Royce shares nothing with the 2-year-old Silver Seraph. That will continue to be produced at Bentley's Crewe factory for Rolls-Royce but only for as long as there is demand. AutoWired understands that in order to learn about the requirement of Rolls-Royce customers' BMW has undertaken research in Japan, the Middle East and America, as well as Europe. Rather than relying on specialty market research companies, BMW preferred to do the research itself. Whether anyone could be as specific as to say what a contemporary Rolls-Royce should be remains to be seen when the new car appears. Rolls afficiandos, however, will know in a second whether BMW got it right. And by then it will be too late. It seems that the new car has been designed in rented floors above a former Barclays Bank in London's Bayswater Road. BMW's design studios in Munich, California and Coventry would not allow the designers to 'smell the money' on the way to and from work. Bayswater Road, however, with Jack Barclay's R-R showroom close by for reference, was ideal.