Turning the truck into something that handles requires a faster steering ratio and being able to steer the front wheels with reasonable effort. For manual steering, faster means higher gears, and just like a bicycle this means it requires more muscle to make things move. The addition of power assist with a faster steering ratio on a recirculating-ball steering arrangement is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't solve all the problems. Recirculating-ball's upper hand over rack-and-pinion is mechanical advantage-the ability to leverage a heavier steering load. Rack-and pinion steering provides less mechanical advantage than recirculating-ball, but it offers less backlash (steering slop), providing more feedback at the steering wheel. To compensate for rack-and-pinion's lower mechanical advantage and allow installation on more demanding applications, power assist has been incorporated into rack-and-pinion systems in recent years.
But this doesn't necessarily mean rack-and-pinion is the new crowned king of steering. On the opposite side of town where the other school of thought labors, technology hasn't stood still, either. Interestingly enough, within the last 10 years there have been advancements in recirculating-ball steering arrangements as well. To address the issue of steering slop, rack-and-pinion valving was added to the new generation of recirculating-ball setups.
If you're saying to yourself, "You didn't tell us which system is correct for my truck," you are right. The bottom line is that the decision can only be determined by the truck owner himself. Thanks to the automotive aftermarket, vintage truck enthusiasts are no longer stuck with steering designed for trucks originally equipped with a fraction of the horsepower of today's customized classic trucks.
In order to decide whether to convert to an aftermarket rack-and-pinion setup or upgrade to the current recirculating-ball, there are several considerations to weigh. First, narrow down how the truck will be used, and decide which type fits the bill best. Second, conduct a feasibility study and learn how much work is involved to convert a particular application. Third, and almost always the detail that can make or break the deal, figure out whether your dreams and your budget agree.