I get the feeling that apples might be being compared with oranges here. Most of the classic road bikes that make folk really sweat are hand-built, and often have the builder's name on them. They also cost about eight weeks' wages when new too.
If you want something new that looks as cool and individual as something old, go out there and buy it. Plenty of beautiful bicycles still being made on both sides of the pond, to name a few
Firefly / Darkstar
In addition to the above, you've got the likes of Salsa, Surly, On One, Charge, and god-knows who else knocking out classic-themed steel steeds of all configurations at really great prices.
I don't think there's actually been a better time to be buying a new bicycle.
Your mistake was only taking five hundred quid with you, though for that amount I'd probably have bought something versatile like a Karate Monkey frame or maybe an Inbred 29er Swapout.
Apples and pears? - they still have a frame, two wheels, saddle and handle bars...