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“Fire up the Quattro (It’s Time for Change)” is a political slogan adopted by the British Conservatives during the UK’s 2010 general elections, in reference to the signature line frequently uttered by the main character Gene Hunt in BBC’s popular TV series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
The phrase was originally introduced to the British audiences through BBC’s sci-fi police drama series Ashes to Ashes in 2008. The show is centered around Gene Hunt, the foul-mouthed, chain-smoking chief police who often says “fire up the Quattro” as a go-signal, in referring to his red 1983 Audi sedan:
As the series grew quite popular, Gene Hunt’s catchphrase took on a slightly different meaning outside the show. According to TVTropes wiki, “Fire up the Quattro” has been used by the viewers poke fun at male chauvinists in general, reflecting Hunt’s character which as been described as “politically incorrect” and “arrogant.”
“‘Fire up the Quattro’ has mutated. It’s used to compare male chauvinists to Gene Hunt – and not as a compliment.”
During the UK’s general elections in 2010, a promotional poster of Gene Hunt (played by British actor Philip Glenister) sitting on the hood of an Audi Quattro was shopped with the face of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, along with the slogan “Don’t let him take Britain back to the 1980s”. This iteration was created and posted online by a 24 year old Labour party activist Jacob Quagliozzi.
But Quagliozzi’s attempt at comparing Gene Hunt to David Cameron backfired, when the Conservatives took the image and changed the slogan to Hunt’s famous quote, “Fire up the Quattro.” With Labour’s new counter-advert, Quagliozzi had unintentionally designed a image macro template for the Tories and Gene Hunt fans to easily add their own comments.
“Fire up the Quattro” is an example of how a meme develops offline with the help of traditional mass media, a popular TV character, and a misguided attempt at co-opting pop culture into a political slogan.