Well, this is sort of a multiple question really...you seem to be more concerned about keeping the front end light than anything else. Correct me if I'm wrong here.
The safety aspect should go without saying, so we must assume that whatever you do will have that in mind.
I'm not quite sure whether switching steering boxes will help you much, I would be more inclined to go for a R & P setup.
That little red T you see had a Honda R & P installed and I hooked it up to a Buick front end.
You may well be right about getting the steering shaft up to the rack, but with two U-joints it should be quite possible.
I found that the steering with the Honda rack was excellent...power might have helped when parked, but when rolling it was just fine.