It’s an interesting thing, this plane. The original aircraft flew from New York to Paris, was named in honor of his financial supporters (who lived in St. Louis), but was built in San Diego.
The “Spirit of St. Louis” was designed and built by Ryan Airlines in 60 days, based on the successful Ryan M-2 mail / passenger aircraft. Obviously, some major modifications had to be made in order to make the plane fit for its historic trans-Atlantic flight. The wings and body-mounted fuel tanks were enlarged to carry 450 U.S. gallons, and the main body-mounted fuel tank moved to the front of the plane in order to make a crash more survivable for the pilot. Meanwhile, every ounce of “unnecessary” weight was stripped from the craft — resulting in a tiny cockpit for the pilot, who could see forward only via side windows and a small periscope.
This particular replica was built in 1979, to replace a previous replica lost in a fire the year before. It has flown a number of times, but has been on display in San Diego almost continuously since its construction.