Car technology has moved on a long way, that's for sure. I have a couple of classics, and can quite easily be reminded of all the things we now take for granted, such as;
- manual chokes (remember them?)
- brakes without servo assistance (far less ABS)
- Carburettors, and setting them up to adjust the mixture
- service intervals greater than 6 months/ 6,000 miles
- grease points
- points-based distributors
- the inevitable 'Friday afternoon car'
- De-cokes (enough said)
Cars back then were like a blank canvas (as opposed to today's blank cheque), they had so much variation, that a good mechanic (or, a bad one) could make a world of difference - but even the best cars, couldn't honestly hold a candle to the worst you can buy today. Cars today, are set up at the factory, and the role of the dealer is to keep them that way, and that's about that.
Are they necessarily more expensive to run? Well, even just 15 years ago, a car with 100,000 miles on the clock was seen as being either scrap, or subject to a major engine rebuild. Since its not uncommon to run cars well past that point, and still be capable of good service, I'd say that things are a bit better than before. Car reliability took a step backwards with the adoption of cambelts, but apart from that, (and it'll be difficult to persuade you - what with your run of bad luck), car's are generally more reliable than they used to be.
Sidenote: what will render older cars scrap is airbag replacement (which is recommended every 15 years), and the effect of imposing retrospectively CO2-based road tax on middle-aged cars.