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Can BMW use Rolls-Royce to inspire a Mini?

Rolls-Royces are very big, very luxurious and very expensive.

Minis are small, agile, cute and far less expensive.

But both brands are owned by BMW AG, so maybe it was inevitable that BMW would do something like “Mini inspired by Goodwood,” a limited-edition car set to debut next week at the Shanghai auto show.

Mini announced yesterday it will make 1,000 Cooper hardtops that are “inspired” by the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars development and design center in Goodwood, England.

I actually doubled-checked the date of this press release because BMW is notorious for its April Fools’ Day cars. This year’s spoof was a British royal wedding edition of the M3. In earlier years, BMW touted a new Canine Repellent Alloy Protection System or C.R.A.P.

Alas, the Mini-Rolls is no joke. The special-edition Mini uses Rolls-Royce colors and materials, including an interior shade called Cornsilk and a black metallic exterior. Other features include walnut burr wood, black nappa leather, piano-black finishes on the steering wheel buttons and fancy trim on other controls. The list goes on but stops short of a hand-polished upright grille or Flying Lady hood ornament.

Production will begin in early 2012 at Mini’s factory in Oxford, England. Mini isn’t saying yet how many will come to America or what the price will be. But the car is real.

The nameplate will read “Mini Inspired by Goodwood.” So why not “Mini Inspired by Rolls-Royce”? That would be a badge too far.

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