Yes, it almost got into combat during the Second World War
Lyle Shelton's "Rare Bear" does a taxi test on its new engine on Tuesday at the 2002 Reno Air Races. The Bearcat only got a new engine mid-summer and it was unknown if it would be at Reno race year 2002 until only a few weeks before. However, due to the nature of this F8F Bearcat, they decided not to race it this year. They had various problems and did not want to put up their aircraft unless it was 100% ready to race and win.
Engine Work on a Bearcat Big engines requires lots of big work - and tools. Here just part of the crew works on the engine trying to tune it up better. The prop is a special paddle blade one just for it. Makes it have a very distinctive sound as it flies by.
The following five photographs are of an F8F Bearcat at Reno in 1999. This one is unmodified and is pretty much stock as from the factory.
Grumman F8F Bearcat The late afternoon sun illuminates the Bearcat on the tarmac at Reno.
F8F Bearcat As seen from the 7 o'clock position. It is actually much easier to shoot down an enemy aircraft from the 5 or 7 aspect than it is from the 6 o'clock position due to physics of firing and the effective size of a target.
F8F Bearcat Closer view of the Bearcat. Very rounded airframe due to the large radial engine that it uses.
F8F Bearcat Taken with a 24 mm Nikon lens, with a polarizer not designed to fit on it, which results in the vi netting effect in the corners.
F8F Bearcat Taken from the 5 o'clock position of the aircraft to get the other side. The Bearcat was the last of the single engine radial fighters from the "Grumman Iron Works." The F4F 'Wildcat,' F6F 'Hellcat,' then the F8F 'Bearcat,' with the twin engined F7F 'Tigercat' filling out the series. in 2003 a Tigercat did enter the races but had to pull out due to engine problems.
I took this very early in the morning at Reno in 2003 just before sunrise. This is a stock Bearcat.