FOUNDED – July 5th 2001
I have been asked many times by recent members how the Chinese Tractor Owners Association came to be. To some it may be a boring story and to others a interesting one. It mostly began with a broken down Ford tractor, the engine had locked up and it was only about 4 years old. I admit it probably was due to our employees abuse on equipment, but the quote at the time to get a rebuilt engine with a very limited warranty was going to cost about $4,000. This was back around 1995 or so. At the time, and still today that was a lot of money for our business, and I couldn’t justify it for just a engine especially if it was going into a old abused machine.
I started looking around for a replacement when I saw a ad in the local newspaper for a brand new diesel tractor 184 model 2 wheel drive for only $3,000 including a 1 year bumper to bumper warranty!! Additionally at the time, I was sold on the fact on how inexpensive parts would be, for example I was told the engine if I had to buy one back then would be only about $400. So, I figured if it lasted one year I was better off then the older machine.
It was a very, very basic machine, but did the same work the Ford tractor did, and being basic, if something needing fixing it was very easy. 9 out of 10 times the mechanic that serviced it only used a small wrench and screwdriver.
From that tractor we upgraded the the 284 4 wheel model, then traded the 184 for another 284 and eventually upgraded to a brand new model that was offering for the first time Power Steering and modern sheet metal. A great looking machine, but unfortunately for us, a very problematic machine. We constantly had pump problems with the power steering, One of the problems was the machine had rice hulls in the pump tank, something I was told was sometimes used in packing items in China and was never cleaned up properly.
We never really got that pump right, but when one of my workers somehow made the machine tip over, which caused the engine to eventually lock up which was our fault. Well, I figured, not to big a deal, parts would be cheap, but when I was told it was going to cost me about $4,000 to replace it, I was not happy. Especially because back then the place I bought it from was my ONLY place to get parts for it. I didn’t know really what I even had other than a Chinese tractor. Plus, the parts manuals were very poorly written and not all parts matched to what I really had.
Before I decided to be out so much money, I started doing research and contacting various places. I soon learned that back then many “Dealers” were simply small guys importing a Chinese tractor and putting their name on it. I learned to look at the fender plate for detail on the machine and especially the engine/model plate information to learn what I really owned.
I learned and located a importer who could order the engine, imported and shipped to my front door for around $2,000, plus I found a local diesel shop that would install it for around $500 labor. I realized at that time, only having a SINGLE SOURCE for a part was not a very helpful or smart thing.
Although I never ordered that engine, I was nervous it might not fit right. I ended up working out a fair deal with the same local guys for a trade in on another tractor, that satisfied me at that time. It was then however, I thought that others must be in the same situation, and how many have no choice but to deal with the one and only guy they know of. It’s great when all is good, but terrible when you have a disagreement or problem with the only place you know.
Plus, what happens when the company you bought from, goes out of business, which eventually is what happened in my case. Suddenly, you may be stuck with a great deal on a machine that you can’t get a simple part on, or service on, because you really don’t know what you really even own!!
Remember, this was back when these were mostly sold under individuals names, you didn’t know really that under the name, it was the same as almost all the other Chinese tractors. You figured the guy you bought it from would be around and back then the tractor came with a small wood box with extra gaskets, fuse, and other misc. items, plus even some tools that should cover most basic repairs. A special note on why the box of items was part of the tractor, I was told that back in China these small tractors were many times the only means of transportation for the farmers and many times no place in many miles for repairs. The box of items was suppose to cover those potential repairs!
I decided that their needed to be a better way for others who either had bought, and needed help, or even those looking to buy could get more information, and more help. I also wanted a place where people weren’t just bashing the Chinese tractor a junk and worthless but a place were those with a common interest could find help and assistance.
It was then I registered the name www.CTOA.net and the idea of the Chinese Tractor Owners Association was born. At the time I was even able to use a lot of free online source to create and manage the site. I even worked on getting into search engines.
For those long time members, many of you probably remember the first FORUM site I used called webcrossing that let us began to have a place to ask questions and get help from one aother. I believe I created that first forum on July 5, 2001.
Over time, it became a great place and source of help, but as the internet grew, free things started to not be dependable. We encountered down times and problems with dependable forum and stuff. After awhile what I thought would be a site that could run itself, turned into a problem with me getting emails with complaints on the site not working, others made fun of the site and how it wasn’t dependable.
I put out a post to the registered members then asking if they really wanted a great place to use a online help and information site and if so where they willing to help pay the cost to keep it up. I even got donations from some very dedicated members who recognized the benefit of my idea.
Which brings us to today, which is now about four backend software changes and many design updates. Since then the site and those who use it has grown. At the time of switching to this new system on Feb. 2011 we had over 4,900 folks who have registered over the years and over 700+ Lifetime Members! I like to think we were and still are the NUMBER ONE place on the internet to come to with a Chinese tractor or even a Chinese dozer question.
We have grown into a wonderful community of individuals and business’ that have a common need and desire to help each other with support and assistance and continues every day…
“Helping each other with knowledge”.
Hal M. – CTOA – Founder