In 1998 engineering group Vickers decided to sell the Rolls Royce and Bentley brands. BMW was seen as the leading buyer, because it had provided technical help and engines for recent new Bentley and Rolls models. BMW also had an aero-engine joint venture with Rolls Royce PLC, which co-incidentally owned the rights to the RR badge. However, Volkswagen swept in and outbid BMW for Rolls Royce and Bentley Motors. But the result was a stalemate, because Rolls Royce PLC was unwilling to allow VW to use the Rolls Royce badge. An agreement was reached that would see VW retaining the bigger selling Bentley brand and the Crewe factory as well as keeping building existing Rolls models until 1 January 2003. At this point BMW would step in and launch an all new Rolls Royce model. BMW built a new factory site at Goodwood in the rolling countryside of southern England. Meanwhile, a team of designer took over a disused bank near Hyde Park in London to style what was intended to be the pinnacle of contemporary automotive engineering.
The result was unexpectedly avant-garde and unexpectedly huge. BMW’s stylists managed to create a shape that was both obviously British and shockingly modern. The Rolls Royce Phantom was based around an aluminium spaceframe chassis and a specially developed V12 engine, both engineered in Germany. The car is painted and assembled at Goodwood, where the hand wood and leather trimming also takes place. The Phantom is an exceptionally engineering achievement, possessing unmatched levels of refinement and effortless power. In 2007, the Phantom spawned the slightly smaller two door Drophead convertible and fixed roof coupe.